Sport

IBM Watson serving up a treat for Wimbledon’s biggest fans

By Oliver Smith 3 July 2017
Image: Getty/Julian Finney / Staff.
Summary

The smartest action is happening off the court.

Tennis fans are congregating in SW19 this week for the start of Wimbledon, the world’s premier tennis tournament, and this year they won’t be alone.

IBM’s artificial intelligence boffins have been slaving away to teach their Watson AI a few new tennis tricks.

The greatest matches

This year Watson will be predicting how nail-bitingly close a match will be by analysing the “competitive margin” between two players.

IBM says it’ll help visitors and TV viewers find the matches that’ll be the most exciting to watch, which might not be the ones you expect.

“You might think it’s the one on Centre Court that happens to feature Roger Federer or [Rafael] Nadal,” Alexandra Willis, head of communications for the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, told Silicon.co.uk.

“But actually we’re saying that this match out on court 18 between two players you may never [have] heard of is likely to be just as enthralling.”

If you do miss a truly great match, Watson has you covered there too.

IBM Watson will be analysing millions of data points around every match. Image: IBM/Ketchum.

Watching and listening

This year the AI will be creating its own video highlight reels of every match, editing together clips based on the importance of a gained point to the overall outcome of the match, the crowd’s reaction, the volume of social media posts and facial analysis of the players.

Some of the video will be pulled from new 360° cameras on each court which will let anyone see more of the action via the Wimbledon smartphone app.

IBM’s highlight reels will be edited in just 30 minutes after each match ends, half the time it would typically take a human.

Finally Wimbledon’s official apps are getting a Watson injection in the form of a chatbot called “Fred” which can help you find food, navigate the courts and find out who’s playing at any given time.

High tech tennis

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Wimbledon embracing new technologies, in 2015 the competition used wearable heart rate and movement monitors to track the audience’s emotional journey through each match.

This year Watson is taking this journey to the next level, turning millions of data points around every match into predictions, analysis and video highlights.

Using data and technology to help audiences find and enjoy the world’s greatest tennis matches is undoubtedly the future.

So, whether you’re following the excruciating and euphoric moments online or in-person, it’s only going to get better.